R Paul Russell
It is with the deepest sadness that we heard, on Sunday, of the passing of our former Club President, Paul Russell, following illness on Saturday afternoon (20th Jan 2018).
Paul presided over arguably EVRFC’s most successful period, leading the club into the professional era in the 90s, bringing European Cup rugby to Ebbw Vale and enabling local players to grow into Welsh international ones. Those of us that were fortunate to follow the club at that time have fantastic memories to thank Paul for.
His contribution to his home town club cannot be overestimated and will never be forgotten.
Our thoughts are with Paul’s family and friends.
Club president, Mark Powell, pays tribute to his predecessor:
“For those of us who supported Ebbw Vale Rugby Club and Glamorgan County Cricket Club in the years leading up to the advent of professional rugby in Wales, the future prospects looked bleak. We were able to hark back to the days of Denzil, Arthur, Gareth, Glyn, Mike, Phil etc. but the rugby club was struggling and there was not much relief in the summer either. Where was Majid, Don Shepherd and the great names of Welsh cricket?
Onto that stage stepped Paul Russell who, at the retirement of the previous President of Ebbw Vale RFC, with whom I was closely acquainted, took over the mantle of reviving the fortunes of the rugby club. He brought with him the experience of business at the highest level, and wasted no time in involving his brother who, by chance, happened to manage one of the most successful groups in popular music and, between them, they were determined to take Ebbw Vale into the professional era. As if such expertise was not enough they were able to call on the financial acumen of one of Wales’ leading lawyers who, by chance, had been a childhood friend.
Under Paul’s leadership the club began to recruit. By the time the recruitment had finished the dressing room was populated by international rugby players. The principal desire was to recruit locally but by the end we had an Irish international, an English international both on the coaching staff and in the team and we had the Tongan High Commission behind the clubhouse. They were glorious years culminating perhaps in the victory against the European Champions Toulouse and the home and away victories against Toulon. Well before Real Madrid borrowed the title, the Ebbw Vale team, under Paul’s presidency, were Los Galacticos. The results came on the pitch but given Paul’s personality, results were not enough. Ebbw Vale had to be associated with style. The end of season dinner was no longer in the clubhouse but at the Celtic Manor. And who could forget the half time entertainment when, in bitterly cold weather, a supporter was prevailed upon to model the Ebbw Vale strip to appropriate musical accompaniment?
The advent of regional rugby was not something that Paul welcomed. He felt that it would break up the fraternity which had always been part of the tribal rivalry in Wales and he was right. He did not, however, just chunter about this and do nothing. When he felt that Ebbw Vale were being unfairly treated by people who should know better he took steps to remedy this and the result was that when Ebbw Vale played Newport the crowd was reduced by two with the television cameras recording the whole thing.
Paul then turned his attention to the situation of Welsh cricket. It would have been the pipe dream of a madman to think that Cardiff would ever host a test match let alone an Ashes test but Paul’s drive helped the transformation of Sophia Gardens into an International Arena. Consistent with his approach, he would only satisfied, when he took over as chairman of Glamorgan County Cricket Club, if the first test that the ground was to hold was against Australia. It was a resounding success and quite how Paul managed to engineer the last afternoon when on a sunlit evening England’s number 10 and 11 held out against the Australian attack thus enabling England, later in the summer, to regain the Ashes, I do not know but suffice it to say that it was only beaten for the intensity with which the spectators were watching what was going on by the appearance of the aforementioned supporter at half-time in the Cup Match at Ebbw Vale.
Right to the end Paul maintained his love for Ebbw Vale and in particular for the rugby club. It is often said in a cricketing context that form is temporary but class is permanent.
Paul had class, and not just any class but Ebbw Vale class. That made him very special.”
Funeral details to follow